Home a symphony of design

Holiday tour features homes along Falls Road corridor

  • One of five homes on the Symphony Holiday Tour is this four bedroom colonial in Baltimore County, which features the rebuilt Bell's Tavern, ca. 1750, relocated from Greenspring Valley to Falls Road, with modern additions.
One of five homes on the Symphony Holiday Tour is this four bedroom… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
December 10, 2010|By Dennis Hockman, ChesapeakeHome

Christmas decor can be as elaborate as the kitsch-meets-Vegas display on 34th Street and as simple as a wreath on the door — or, perhaps, nothing at all. Sande Riesett's hectic end-of-year schedule as an independent marketer often results in Decembers that come and go with few of the season's festive embellishments.

Not this year.

When the Baltimore Symphony Associates asked about featuring her Brooklandville home on the 2010 Symphony Homes for the Holidays tour, Riesett saw a benefit in the prospect of thousands of people touring her house.

"[It's] a really great motivator for decorating for Christmas," she says.

Each year, the owners of historic and elegant homes throughout the Baltimore region team up with floral designers, who donate their time, to decorate in preparation for the two-day tour.

In keeping with the style of her house and the neighborhood's sylvan environment, Riesett's take on Christmas decor is natural, traditional and simple.

"Normally, I do some sort of tree or trees decorated with old family ornaments … things I've had since I was a kid, things my dad had as a kid," she says. "I have really nice holiday memories, and although I want the decor to feel special, I want things to have a reason, which is why I decorate with family items."

Taking cues from Riesett's personal tastes as well as the interior decor that designer Dan Proctor helped to establish, floral designers Robert Honaker and Allison Webb worked to make sure their arrangements would be subtle complements to the comfortable vibe the home so effortlessly conveys.

A structure from the mid-1700s that was moved to the site and then combined with newer construction and a contemporary addition, the house might best be described as eclectic. Which suited Riesett just fine. Still, she wanted her home to be more cohesive, so she consulted Proctor, principal of Kirk Designs, to help blend the diverse spaces and yet preserve their distinctive charm.

To establish the decorative style for the house, Proctor looked first to the oldest room, one he describes as "a charming and whimsical old structure, deeply seated in tradition." But because of the newer additions, "the house has a nonetheless more modern feel." The furnishings, art, finishes and accessories were selected to balance that history and tradition and also set a decidedly fresh, more contemporary look.

When Riesett decided to join the holiday tour, she again turned to Proctor for help in setting the tone.

"The house lends itself well to decorating for Christmas," says Proctor. "Because the warmth of the house, even when it isn't the holiday season, is strong, festive decor is a natural, and there are plenty of great locations for adding in seasonal elements."

The holiday arrangements by Webb and Honaker, both volunteers for Symphony Homes for the Holidays, were designed to meet that same goal.

As the stylistic basis for her arrangement, Webb, a designer for Rutland Beard Florist, focused on the home's history.

"The room I worked in was originally part of Bell's Tavern, built in 1750, so I am playing with the history and the wooded setting of the property." Webb's arrangements echo the style and simplicity of the Colonial era and incorporate such traditional materials as magnolia, winterberry, boxwood and other evergreens available in the winter.

To complement the built-in shelving in the "tavern room," Webb interspersed winterberry and Southern magnolia leaves with the existing books, sculpture, framed photographs and keepsakes on display.

In the foyer, Webb created a large yet simple arrangement of white French tulips and fresh-cut winterberry branches naturally ornamented with bright red berries to grace the center of a classically simple silver tray.

Honaker, owner of Design by Nature and responsible for creating arrangements to complement the newer parts of the house, looked toward the interior decor to inform his designs.

"Sande has a very relaxed natural style," he says. "She has a beautiful home but that's not fussy."

For the dining room centerpiece he pulled colors from the painted walls and other decorative elements to help narrow down the flowers and foliage he would use.

"We incorporated apples and pears, foliage found in the yard, dried hydrangea and amaranthus, burgundy oak leaves, and evergreens in varying shades and textures to create real visual interest."

In the living room, Honaker created two arrangements of oranges pierced with dried whole cloves atop a bed of juniper in a basket edged with magnolia leaves. The classic, natural materials wink at the traditions of the season but through a more contemporary, albeit rustic, implementation and design.

Such subtle twists on tradition are at the core of Riesett's decorating philosophy for the holidays and year-round.

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